Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Aunt Lil's Fresh Apple Cake

There is something about Christmastime that makes me cling to tradition. My family is filled with them and these are the moments we look forward to all year long. Love, family and friends trump all this time of year and the air has just a little bit more joy and magic in it. I wish I could bottle it up.

When it comes to family tradition and things passed down through generations, a handwritten recipe is a gift that keeps on giving all through the year! I love looking through my mom's recipe box, seeing a variety of beautiful writing, in the form of a recipe, that has been passed down from a friend, a grandmother, a great grandmother, aunts and great aunts. 

This apple cake is something I remember eating my entire life. My grandmother makes it often, it's on my mom's rotation and last week, I made one of my own for one our our Thanksgiving celebrations. This recipe is simple and best of all, this cake is wonderful for dessert, breakfast or even an afternoon sweet treat! The sweet and crunchy crumble top is the very best part!

Aunt Lil's Fresh Apple Cake

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
2 3ggs
2 and 1/4 cup flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large apples, peeled and chopped fine

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix cake ingredients in an electric stand mixer. Pour in greased 9 x 13" pan. Sprinkle topping on batter, gently pressing into dough.

Bake for 40 minutes.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Shop Small

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We certainly did! Between starting our holiday with the 5 mile Charlotte South Park Turkey Trot, ending the weekend with a relaxing Christmas decorating Sunday, and lots of family and food in between, we have so much to be thankful for. 

Small Business Saturday may have passed, but that doesn't mean you should forget about your local businesses when you go out to do your Christmas shopping. I, for one, love supporting small businesses. Small business owners are living their dreams and sharing what they are passionate about. Gifting these items is extra special because there is always some sort of story to tell. 

Here are just a few of my favorite small businesses. I'll keep this list updated!

I may be biased, but Pour Olive's oils and vinegar are the best of the best! Hop into the store and let Sophie and Doug come up with a perfect pairing to take to your next dinner party as a hostess gift or create a one of a kind gift basket for the foodie in your life! Follow Pour Olive on Facebook for special deals and new product news. If you aren't local to Charlotte, give the store a call. Pour Olive will gladly ship! My favorites are the Chemlali Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Lemon Fused Olive Oil and Fig Symphony Balsamic.

My dear friend Jen and her mom Jan started this little business of theirs about a year ago and I am so proud of them! Jan make the most darling camera bags, make pouches, ipad cases and the famous Rosie Posie necklaces! Additionally, Jen does fantastic custom design work including goodies for kids' birthday parties, invitations, stationery and so much more.

Wrigley's cousin Ozzie has been sporting a custom made Silly Buddy bow tie and collar for awhile now and he is extra dapper and polite when he wears it! These collars and bow ties are excellent quality and made with so much care and love. The cousins have ordered matching green and red peppermint stick striped bow ties for this Christmas season!! Wrigley is especially excited for his very first bow tie (and visit from Santa).

As an independent Stampin' Up! demonstrator, my mom runs her own small business. In addition to selling Stampin' Up! products and hosting workshops, she also sells her creative goods! Together, we made my wedding invitations and the result was stunning. She doesn't stop at stamping either. My mom is also a gifted artist and has done tons of beautiful custom painting. She is working on a blog/website to showcase her work and I will share that once she is ready.

Spread the love this holiday season and support your favorite small businesses!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Italian Sausage + Parmesan Egg Muffins

I'm a huge fan of eggs for breakfast! I try to start my day with protein to give me energy and keep me full. While in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago for a baby shower, I fell in love with the egg muffins that were part of the shower brunch. They were full of flavor and I was mostly impressed that the muffins didn't sink, like most fritattas and egg muffins tend to do. Thankfully, I learned the secret trick- baking powder! Just 1/4 of a teaspoon and the muffins puff up perfectly. A kitchen problem solved. Thanks for the tip, Erin!

 These savory bite sized breakfast muffins are packed with protein and tons of flavor. If you're running a Turkey Trot this Thanksgiving, whip these up to enjoy either pre or post race! They're the perfect way to fuel for a run without feeling as stuffed as a Thanksgiving turkey as well as a great snack to enjoy after the miles have been run. Additionally, add these to your next weekend brunch spread or holiday pajama party breakfast. I don't usually like leftover eggs, but these egg muffins taste just as good heated up in the microwave. When I made these a few weeks ago, we had breakfast for a few days and they are perfect for busy mornings to grab on the go!

To make these 100% Paleo, take out the parmesan, although I do think the little bit of cheese makes these extra tasty!

Italian Sausage + Parmesan Egg Muffins

1 dozen eggs, whisked
1 lb. mild Italian sausage, ground (or removed from casings)
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup half and half
1/4 tsp. baking powder
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

In a skillet over medium-high heat, saute sausage until cooked through, about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside. In the same skillet, saute onions for 3-5 minutes, until translucent and fragrant. 

In a large bowl, whisk eggs and combine sausage, sauteed onion, parmesan, half and hald, baking powder and season with salt and pepper. Pour into to compartments of a non-stick or well greased muffin tin.

Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Petite Pumpkin Spice Donuts {Hey, That's Pin-tastic!}

Clearly, my favorite pins are of the tasty variety. Time in the kitchen is like therapy to me and I love the instant gratification I get when I find something to make, crank up some dance worthy tunes, and spend a few hours in the kitchen knowing I'll having something to enjoy and share with loved ones. This is in my Italian blood.

When I scroll through my Pinterest feed I can almost feel the weight gain as I pin each sweet treat, but then I find a good crossfit workout or sexy abs routine and it kind of cancels out the guilt. Like I really care anyways. Tis the season for delicious sweets, festive flavors and pumpkin EVERYTHING. Literally.

My sister and I obsessed over this pin for not even 24 hours before we rushed out on a mad search for a mini donut tin. It turns out they are harder to find than you think but if we would have stopped at trusty Bed, Bath and Beyond in the beginning, we could have saved an entire day.

These pumpkin spiced gems are perfect with morning coffee, afternoon tea or by themselves as a quick mid-day treat. They can even be fancied up for an autumn dessert like I made for dinner with friends last week. Vanilla bean ice cream topped with sauteed cinnamon sugar apples and finished with a petite donut on top was nothing short of heavenly.

I kind of believe that everything is better bite sized. And that eating seven tiny donuts is better than one regular sized one. 

Petite Pumpkin Spice Donuts
recipe from Blue Eyed Bakers

1 3/4 cup flour
1.5 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1.5 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup milk

For coating:
1/2 cup butter, melted
2/3 cup sugar
1-2 tbsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter mini donut pan and set aside.

In a bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt and spices and set aside.

In a large bowl (or the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment) whisk together oil, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, pumpkin and milk until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the mixture and stir until just combined, careful not to over mix.

Using a pastry bag or a steady hand and a spoon, fill each donut cup with the batter.  The donut cups should be fairly full, but not overflowing. Bake for 8-9 minutes, until donuts spring back when gently pressed (if you're using a larger donut pan, allow them to bake for 12-15 minutes).  Turn donuts out onto a wire rack and allow to cool for a few minutes.
While the donuts are cooling, melt butter in one bowl and combine the sugar and cinnamon in another.  When donuts are still hot (but not too hot to touch), quickly dip each donut in melted butter, then coat in the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Serve immediately.
Check out all of the other pin-tastic creations today on the fabulous I Love You More Than Carrots! AP, you are the best! Thank you, as always, for hosting!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Crockpot Beer Carnitas Tacos with Pineappla Salsa

I can say with the utmost confidence that this might very well be the MOTHER OF ALL TACOS. I order a similar taco from one of my favorite Charlotte restaurants and I just can't figure out for the life of me why it took me this long to re-create my own version of this decadent bite. Slow cooked pork with the flavors of full bodied beer and authentic Mexican spices combined with the sweet and spicy kick of fresh pineapple salsa make for one helluva taco. I'm a huge fan of pulled pork in the crock pot- it is seriously a no-fail method! For added texture, I mixed up some avocado and sour cream with lime and sea salt to make an avocado mousse that added even more pizazz to these carnitas tacos. 

We enjoyed these with good friends on Wednesday night and we all left the table with giant and full bellies. And they were even better for lunch the next day.

Make these. Tonight.

Crockpot Beer Carnitas Tacos
recipe adapted from How Sweet Eats

2 lb. pork loin roast
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
12 oz. bottle of your favorite beer
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Plug in crock pot and set on high heat. Mix seasonings together. In a crock pot, add pork loin, beer and sprinkle seasonings all over. Cook pork on high for 6.5 hours or on low for 8-9 hours, turning occasionally. 

Once pork is fully cooked and pulls easily, using two forks pull apart and shred.

Serve on fresh corn or flour tortillas with pineapple salsa and avocado mousse. For a delicious Paleo friendly version, wrap the pork, salsa and mousse in a lettuce wrap. 

Pineapple Salsa

1/2 pineapple, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
handful of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
juice of one lime
1 Tbsp. honey
pinch of salt to taste

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and let sit for at least an hour before serving.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Doodle Shenanigans

This little doodle of ours is a constant source of entertainment.

Exhibit A: He just learned how to steal Mark's hat.

This four legged furry friend of ours is the BEST.

Peace, love and Doodles :)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sunflower + Pumpkin Tree Bunch Fall Bouquet

I have said it time and time again, but I love being within minutes of Trader Joe's! I don't do all of my grocery shopping there, but certainly a large chunk of it. It's a great place to pick up specialty items, pantry extras and some of the best wine. The Holidays are my favorite time of year at Trader Joe's because everything is always so festive and cheerful. I picked up these bright, happy sunflowers for $3.99 and the mini pumpkin tree bunches for around $6.99 and quickly put together this seasonal bouquet that has been sitting on my kitchen island for a week and a half now! The sunflowers are huge and these mini pumpkins are actually  My cousin had a similar arrangement on her kitchen counter for a girls lunch date a few weeks ago and I knew our home needed a matching one. If you live near a Trader Joe's, pick up some of these darling pumpkin tree bunches to add some fresh seasonal accents to you home!

Hope everyone enjoyed a lovely weekend!